A Staunton man is dead, killed in a house fire southeast of Walshville early Tuesday morning, March 31, while helping someone else escape the blaze.
Jeffrey D. Dunkirk, 32, of Staunton, was pronounced dead at the scene by Montgomery County Coroner Randy Leetham. The home was located at 2011 Old Brushy Road, southeast of Walshville, west of Panama, and north of Sorento.
According to Montgomery County Sheriff Rick Robbins, the fire began about 12:45 a.m. when Dunkirk was helping the owner of the house trailer stoke a wood burner using a fuel, which created an explosion and fire. Dunkirk, injured in the flash, and the homeowner ran to the back of the home because the fire was next to the only exit.
“Mr. Dunkirk, badly burned, assisted the homeowner out of a small bathroom window, along with neighbors outside of the window,” Robbins said. “Once the homeowner was out the window, Mr. Dunkirk collapsed in the residence.”
When a deputy and Illinois State Police Trooper arrived, neighbors on the scene were attempting to get Dunkirk out by cutting a hole in the trailer with a chainsaw. The two officers helped remove the victim through the hole as 13 members of the Shoal Creek Fire Department arrived to battle the blaze. They arrived to find the home fully involved, and fought the fire for over five hours.
They were assisted by four firefighters from the Litchfield Fire Department, as well as personnel from Taylor Springs Fire Department, Mt. Olive Fire Department and Greenville Fire Department. Hillsboro Area Ambulance Service also responded.
The Illinois State Fire Marshal, along with the sheriff’s office, coroner’s office and state police, determined the fire to be accidental.
“Many people within the neighborhood are to be praised for assisting,” Robbins said, “especially Mr. Dunkirk for helping another human before himself.”